Vietnam Introduces Work-Permit Changes for Foreign Workers

By Roy Maurer Oct 16, 2013

T​he management of recruitment, entry and work period for foreign employees assigned to Vietnam will change significantly once a recently passed law goes into effect on Nov. 1, 2013.

Modifications include a shortening of the work-permit period from three years to two, new administrative procedures for employers before they can obtain work permits and work-permit exemptions, and new qualifying categories for foreign workers.

The biggest change for expatriate employees is in the now two-year maximum time they may stay in Vietnam before their company has to justify the need, and apply, for reissued visas.

However, the permit can be reissued for the same two-year period multiple times, explained Quynh Anh Lam, a Ho Chi Minh City-based consultant at Mayer Brown JSM.

Employers are required to submit reissuance applications at least five days, but no more than 15 days, before the current permits expire.

Prior to Recruitment of Foreign Nationals

Beginning Nov. 1, companies seeking to hire foreigners for positions that Vietnamese workers are not qualified for will need to report their demand to, and get approval from, the People’s Committee of the province or city in which the company has its headquarters.

“This demand report needs to be submitted once per year and will need to be updated throughout the year with any changes,” Lam explained. The chairman of the provincial People’s Committee must give written approval for each foreign employee in each position.

Additional requirements apply to contractors that use foreigners for their work in Vietnam, said Lam. They must ask the chairman of the People’s Committee to try to recruit Vietnamese workers for each position earmarked for a foreign employee. “The chairman has from one to two months to recruit suitable candidates,” she explained. “If it is not possible to do so, the chairman will consider allowing the contractor to recruit foreign employees for those positions.”

Intracompany transferees applying for first-time work permits will need to provide evidence that they have worked for the company for at least one year before the assignment’s start date.

The previous requirement for companies to advertise a job to local candidates before offering the position to a foreign national has been expunged.

Work-Permit-Exemption Changes

The new requirements expand the list of foreigners eligible for exemption from a work permit to include an extended list of volunteers, journalists and teachers. “The bad news is that an employer, prior to employing a person in one of these categories, must request the provincial Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs [DOLISA] to certify in writing that the employee satisfies the conditions for exemption,” said Lam. Supporting documents must be sent to DOLISA at the time of the request. “Under the previous regulations, the employer only needed to report to the provincial DOLISA that a foreign employee was eligible for an exemption.”

The new categories of foreign nationals qualified for work-permit exemptions are:

  • Teachers working at international universities.
  • Foreign nationals with advanced degrees engaging in consultation, teaching or research at universities or colleges for up to 30 days.
  • Foreign nationals (including volunteers) implementing international agreements between the Vietnamese government and foreign authorities.

Technical Workers Now Qualify

Previously, employees had to qualify as a manager, an executive or an expert to be granted a work permit. The new law has added a technical-worker category. To qualify for this category, applicants will need to prove they have studied or trained for at least one year and have worked for a minimum of three years in the field related to their proposed position in Vietnam.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

Related Articles:

Global Immigration Update, SHRM Online Global HR, September 2013

Significant Changes Made to Brazil’s Work Visa Procedures, SHRM Online Global HR, June 2013

New Immigration Procedures for Foreign Nationals Working in Mexico, SHRM Online Global HR, February 2013

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